Why This Art Director Is Ditching Design for Text-Only Emails

Flashy graphics, images, and colors may not always be your best bet.

Sometimes the stripped-down version works best. Like the acoustic version of your favorite song. Or the Instagram photo with zero filters. Or the film without the 3D effects.

But can the same be said about email design?

In this episode of “Win at Email Design,” I discuss the pros and cons of stripping away images, GIFs, colors, header images, footers, logos, navigations, social icons, buttons, and columns. When all of those elements are deleted from a template, can you still even call it design? Can the email do as good a job of communicating as a heavily-designed email?

Not all text-only emails are created equal, either. I lay out some simple rules — like proper text size, alignment, hyperlinking, and word count — that you should still follow.

Watch the video above, and then let me know your thoughts in the comments below: text-only emails or heavily-designed emails?

For more AWeber “Win at Email Design” episodes with yours truly, check out my YouTube page. There, you’ll find tips on how to create a compelling welcome email and ways to rock a newsletter design.

And if you’re not sure what to write in your emails? Download these 45+ FREE writing templates. Learn how to craft the perfect message or just fill in the blanks!


  1. Carol Buchanan

    1/25/2018 3:20 pm

    At last! I’ve been waiting a long time to hear a design professional talk this way. All the marketers I’ve found call for graphics, images, Gifs, and video. To me that seems to be so much visual clutter, as distracting as the “push” ads that jump up at the outer margins of blogs and shake their booties at me. (In a manner of speaking.)
    Things that wiggle and bump don’t fit at all with my newsletter about law and order in territorial Montana.
    Typography is a design element in itself, and one I dearly love. I wish there were more font families available on AWeber.
    Thanks for the recommendation to use 16pt type. I’ll bump mine up.
    Thank you very much, Mike!
    Carol Buchanan, Author

  2. Michael Smith

    1/26/2018 9:10 am

    Thanks for reading Carol! Unfortunately font options is more of an email client rendering issue than an AWeber specific limitation. We also wish that certain email clients would display more fonts properly. Maybe this will be the year that happens!

  3. Sean Cox

    1/25/2018 3:32 pm

    Thanks Mike! As Carol previously stated, it’s nice to hear someone say this, and for me, to validate what I’ve already done–text-only emails. Ok, so I’m not crazy then 🙂

  4. Michael Smith

    1/26/2018 9:12 am

    Definitely not crazy Sean! Everyone needs to make the email experience best suit their audience and purpose. For lots of people text-only is that experience.

  5. Kay Collier

    1/25/2018 4:34 pm

    I have always wondered why those in the know think that we are brainless robots with no imagination, who have to see a picture in case we don’t understand the words we read…
    so Mike your words are music to my ears…I can now get on with my writing free of the anxiety and time consuming search for “clever” gifs etc in order to help people understand my message.
    One of the best pieces of really good information for 2018…thanks Mike.

  6. Michael Smith

    1/26/2018 9:13 am

    Yes Kay, a lot of times using ones imagination is much more powerful. I still love me some good images and gifs, but they aren’t suited for every situation or every email.

  7. Allan Miller

    1/26/2018 12:17 am

    Hi Mike,
    I understand that email must be mobile friendly. In other words, the line lengths must fit the width of the mobile screen.
    But what line length should you use and how do you calculate it?
    This seems to be a well hidden secret.
    Many thanks … Allan.

  8. Michael Smith

    1/26/2018 9:16 am

    Hi Allan. Mobile has introduced a new level of complexity to email, but I wouldn’t get tripped up on hitting enter/return at the of a certain number of letters or words. I’d recommend using one of the templates in AWeber, because they are all mobile responsive. So they will automatically add line breaks for mobile phones where they need to happen. And they will also look great on desktops too. Let the software do that work for ya!

  9. Michael Smith

    1/26/2018 9:11 am

    Hi Chris, here is the link to Jeff’s book: http://jeffwalker.com/books/

  10. Zak

    1/30/2018 3:15 am

    Great vid Mike! Look forward to the rest of the series, and more field-tested tips.